The difference between tangible and intangible heritage has been pointed again and again. Clear poignant measures may be taken for protection, restoration and appreciation of tangible cultural heritage. Whereas these measures often require a small amount of modification, by and large the principle remains unaltered. It is neither sufficient nor advisable to safeguard intangible heritage in this fashion. For, it exists in practice, in continuity, more like an organism than a finished product.
Practice of music in India is traceable from Veda-s. This practice was motivated, in part, with aim of granting joy and still more, for self fulfillment and absolution. It developed as a discipline with guiding principles based on tangible phenomena. Safeguarding of Indian classical music involves respect for both its motivations. Absolution, in itself an abstraction, provides the practice with ability to transcend the physical rules; yet due its innate obscurity is likely to be shunned for clearer goal of granting pleasure. The science of Indian music developed with clear principles, which permit it full play and space for innovation (Upaj) and safeguard its practice from turning into vain exercise in providing vacuous pleasure to undiscerning people. The danger of ‘entertainment’ devouring ‘discernment’ and ‘absolution’ was never greater. With breaking up of all human affairs into consumption and production, demand and supply, the ‘fast buck’ has pushed away all other concerns.
Indian Classical Music practice was gradually being molded towards the ostensible goal of pleasing listeners, ever since music could be recorded and replayed. No musician had ever listened to himself singing in exact fashion over and over again. And now, the ability to sing in a manner that could not be bettered – because, this same performance would be heard with same flourishes and blemishes – changed the very mode of Riyaz. The objective now became an exercise in dissatisfaction for executing blameless performance instead of immersing and losing oneself in one’s music. A still more dominant factor was Time; the necessity to bind one’s practice into definite duration.
It is not that idea of excellence and competence were absent prior to this; but they existed more as just reward that comes to deserving and fortunate practitioner. Concept of detached Karma (one has no right over the result of one’s action) modulated the practitioner’s psyche. Historically, a large number of practitioners, rooted in idea of absolution through art, remained content with their station in life. The increasing pressure of externality erodes the internal fulfillment, and most practitioners succumb to immediacy of tangible rewards than wait for intangible, uncertain absolution.
Stalwart vocalist of Jaipur-Atrauli school, Pt. Rajshekhar Mansur received training in music and life from his father and Guru. He confides how his father prohibited him from using music for earning livelihood. Music is for mind and heart, not for stomach and flesh. And so the son took up university degree and pursued career in higher education, even as he kept learning with his father. Modern thrust on individual as efficient consumer-producer batters all activities into demand-supply chain. Individuals are taught to excel in an activity that comes closest to their heart and use it for subsistence. Fulfillment is welcome so long it aids economic cycle; but self-sufficiency that opts out is frowned upon. It no longer fits in with the system. So long as music aims to entertain others, it is an activity involving exchange; but when its end is self-fulfillment, it denies the external world. Apart from such a stance being against consumption, it also exemplifies an alternative to rat-race existence.
The idea of attaining bliss – Sat, Chit, Anand – was evocative of spirituality and thus Indian music practitioners whole-heartedly accepted and professed it as ‘spiritual’. Any attempt to approach it rationally were opposed and rejected. Scholars, on other hand, had always discussed practice and directed course of development. Introduction of tangible aspects in recent past has reduced clarity and focus in academics. Through equalization, trivia – because of sheer volume – now commands greater attention of learner, practitioner than actual science.
Indian Classical Music thus faces threats on all platforms: political, social, economic and academic. Political correctness attacks it for ‘elitism’; socially, it is less than entertainment; it is no longer an economically viable activity with inverted user: time ratio; academically a near-impossibility to teach with reduced attention span and learning time. Whereas technology aids most learning activities, inter-relationship of Music and Time, does not provide short-cuts.
Safeguarding Indian music thus involves re-affirmation of its shadowed goal – self-fulfillment, sublimation, absolution – through Appreciation, Practice and Education leading to awareness and consensus amongst practitioners for preserving innate strength and essence. People have to realize that solution to thirst in a desert lies not in turning it into ocean, but in a tiny, secluded haven. Music, like life, has existed only through giving not mining. As Magi would say, giving is reward in itself.